Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


0271.  Statue of King Charles II decorated with an oak wreath, All Saints’ Church, Northampton, Oak Apple Day, 29 May 2015.

2.  My friend who as a child lived in Wolverton (Milton Keynes), Buckinghamshire, remembers her mother drying acorns and grinding them and dosing people to deal with constipation [Lichfield, Staffordshire, April 2015].

3.  ‘Pews in church should be oak, otherwise God does not hear the prayers.’  Arthur Evans, in charge of Borsdane Wood, Westhoughton, Lancashire, c. 1960s, after a tour of the wood would tell this story and say that the pews in Westhoughton church were not oak (they were pine), and that is why God did not hear Westhoughton people’s prayers [South East London Folklore Society, Borough, London, March 2014].

0014. Founder’s Day at the Royal Hospital Chelsea: My father was Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Hospital from 1953 to 1957, my family lived there and we attended every Founder’s Day Parade …         Founder’s Day celebrates Charles II’s escape from Cromwell’s soldiers and his subsequent escape to France where he lived until the restoration in 1660. In 1651 Charles’s soldiers were defeated by Cromwell’s army at the Battle of Worcester and Charles hid in an oak tree, hence the boughs of oak round the statue and the sprigs of oak worn by the pensioners. Charles II was Founder of the Royal Hospital, although it was not completed in his lifetime. It was built to provide a home for retired soldiers in the same way that Greenwich, which was built earlier, provided for retired sailors. On Founder’s Day the pensioners parade on their red coats and black tricorne hats, they give three cheers for their Founder, and the salute is taken by a high ranking service officer or a member of the Royal Family. It is a splendid and rather moving occasion, some pensioners remain seated, some march past rather slowly, but with dignity, their coats exactly matching the geraniums massed in huge lead tubs round the Figure Court [Keyhaven, Hampshire, December 2003].

2014-10-22 15.14.545. Many years ago when I kept dairy goats … for diarrhoea I fed them oak leaves [Chapelhope, Selkirk, April 2002].

6. I have been told that shaping the knob on the cord of a window-blind into an acorn keeps lightning away (Berkshire, 1940; Somerset/Avon, 1951) [Union Mills, Isle of Man, March 1998].

7. Oak and Nettle Day, 29 May, was observed in my village primary school. Anyone who came to school without a sprig of oak (which had to be English oak, Quercus robur, not easy to find on the moorland) was thoroughly nettled by the older boys, a painful experience in the days of short trousers and short skirts [Rolleston-on-Dove, Staffordshire, February 1998].

8. If the oak is out before the ash
We shall only have a splash;
If the ash is out before the oak
We shall surely have a soak
[Tickhill, South Yorkshire, February 1998].
0679. [North Kesteven, Lincolnshire] Acorn in apron pocket to prevent rheumatism [Alvingham, Lincolnshire, October 1994].

Images: main, Chess Valley, Hertfordshire, March 2014;  upper middle inset, Chelsea Pensioners marching past the oak-covered statue of Charles II, Founder’s Day 1921; lower middle inset, planted, Battersea Park, London Borough of Wandsworth, October 2014; lowest inset, Manningtree, Essex, September 2015.